Thursday, November 11, 2010

Gender imbalance of a different kind

I watched a program on Asianet recently. The subject was very interesting and I wanted to see what the modern Malayalee thought of the same. The subject in question was that women felt unsafe in buses in Kerala.

The panel consisted of a few educated, articulate young ladies one of whom was a very well spoken actress. On the opposite side were not people who held a contrary view, but men, mostly middle aged (and a few young guys too) who I observed were present only to oppose the view. Instead of this show being a discussion that concerns the entire society, it turned out to be a man vs women kind of a fight with the men opposing the view only for the sake of opposing. They had no concrete facts to support their argument and instead tried to dismiss the whole issue by trivializing it. It was almost as if, they opposed the ladies having a view point and more importantly a platform for airing it.

Not a single man sitting in the chairs behind the panel of men spoke up for their sisters, mothers, daughter, wives etc.

The debate started with the women articulating very eloquently and with a lot of clarity the experiences they had in Kerala buses. But if you think the men let them have their say, think again. The men merely shouted down the women, wouldn’t let them talk and when they expressed their opinion, it was so stupid that you wondered if they knew anything about the subject let alone any other subject worth discussing.

Then I remembered my posts on Kerala here and at other places like DOC where people landed up to defend anything written about Kerala that they did not like. They had no clue to what we were talking about but considered it their right to shout down anyone who says anything they do not endorse. It was almost as if they were afraid and angered by people having a voice.

What was surprising about this show was that there wasn’t a single man in the audience or panel who talked with some understanding of the subject or who knew how to participate or behave in a debate. Most of the men were only interested in opposing anything the women had to say and if possible making noises so that the ladies did not get to speak.

The moderator of the program can easily put Arnab Goswami to shame. Just when a lady was making a point in a clear and concise manner he would interrupt or pose another question to the men. Then the whole program would descend into pandemonium. It was the most frustrating thing to watch.

After a time I stopped watching because I just could not believe that grown up men could behave like this. One man went on to say that Kerala is the safest place in India for women. Another said that Kerala men were very decent and the fact that he wasn’t keeping his daughter as his wife was proof that he was a decent guy (believe it or not).

Then they went on to allege that women enjoyed the attention of men and that they invited it either by showing interest or by dressing provocatively. The discussion was not worth airing on a channel like Asianet. Even illiterate people from Bihar and UP know how to behave themselves better than the men from the 100% literate state that appeared in this debate!

What struck me most about this program was that the ladies participants in the program were way ahead of the men in etiquette, decorum, articulation abilities and knowledge. They took part in the discussion with dignity, stating their experiences in a matter of fact manner while the men just misbehaved as they had no point to counter the ladies and most importantly did not want the ladies to have a say.

And that is when it struck me that this was a very good spectacle of what women in Kerala go through, not only in buses but in life in general. The debate was an eye opener to the kind of people the ladies have to put up with daily.

All I got to say in conclusion is that the Kerala society seems skewed. On one hand we have the women, who are educated, progressive and intelligent, on the other hand they are dominated by men who are completely opposite to them in every aspect. A very sad situation indeed! No wonder the state is leading in divorces. How can women in such a society find partners who are their equals in every aspect!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

A slice of life

I like Art movies. I like art movies for its deliciously stark portrayal of real life. It’s a relief from commercial cinema that has no resemblance to real life. I find Art movies refreshing. The more stark the reality the better. It is like a purge, a purge from the one sided vista, commercial cinema brainwashes you with, whether it is patriotism, family relations, poverty, love, and relationships… anything and everything and the way it is shown.

For people like us, who live in concrete cages, Art movies are like a bite of real life.

While growing upon a steady diet of Malayalam and Hindi movies thanks to my Dads collection, I learnt to look at life through pink tinted glasses. Elders were nice. Poor people were humble, grateful and loyal to their benefactors. Boyfriends sang songs to their girlfriends and girlfriends pledge eternal troth to their boyfriends. Husbands were pillars of the family and mothers, the foundation. And lot of other blah blah.

Then came Art cinema, the next item in my Dad’s menu and I saw my first “Ankur” like swallowing a bitter pill. A very bitter pill. I didn’t like it and wanted some nice mushy movie. But Ankur fascinated me. It raised a lot of questions that my folks had to answer red faced, perhaps cursing themselves under their breath for opening a can of worms.

That movie also taught my mom to get over the reticence of her upbringing and face her metro kid and tell her what adultery was all about. What landlords of yore were and the social system that existed in villages and between upper castes and lower castes, the rich and the poor.

Reality is a bitter pill to swallow and but it makes you feel so much better after that. I mean it felt good to see people with shades of grey unlike the black and white portrayal in commercial cinema. For very love story there existed ten of betrayal, for every good husband there were ten bad ones and for every chaste woman there existed many who were not. It explained a lot of things that puzzled me from real life.

Today I relish Art movies. They are like a sneak peek into the real India. A break from the untiringly nice Moms, as portrayed by commercial cinema to the woman who has needs and a personality and frailties of her own as shown by art cinema. I would say that Art cinema has its fingers on the pulse of change that is taking place in a transitional society like ours. And keeping us in touch with it.

What we need is more Art cinema. I think the public is ripe for it.

And with this I complete 300 posts at My Think Pad . Thank you for your support and interest :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Speak up and we will label you a slut

I have an aunt in Kerala. She fights for women's rights, encourages women who keep quiet against abusive men whether verbal or physical to get legal help and helps them stand up for their right to a dignified life. She is a much hated woman who is accused of breaking up families ( made a lady who was beaten to pulp and eyeball pushed out, several compound fractures, to divorce her husband and more such cases), influencing women to fight with husbands (helped several ladies take a firm stand on their salary packets that husbands snatched and drank) and several other “unsocial behavior” that according to the some men were “socially disruptive” activities.

When all else failed to stop her, the most powerful weapon in the men's armory came out. And what is that you may wonder. And that is …calling her a “physically frustrated woman”. This is pretty common in Kerala. If a woman even raises her hand to stop a man from beating her or defends herself in anyway and a man cannot do anything about it, then the ultimate weapon i.e. sexual innuendos are used against her to control her and make her act in a manner that is acceptable to men.

My aunt has had more than her share. Her husband, a highly supportive man is called “henpecked” which is the weapon of choice against men who do not “control” their wives and treat their wives as equals. Control here means, a man who ensures the woman toes the line drawn by him even if it violates all her rights and civil liberties. Which is why you will rarely see a Malayalee woman stand up for herself. There will be no one to support you and people in turn will blame you for bringing trouble on yourself by raising your voice against your husband/father/any other male etc. And if a woman does fight for her right, the men and to an extent some women too will go after her like a pack of hounds, calling her sexually frustrated and if she is unmarried advice her parents to get her married, which is a snide remark rather than an advice.

When I started blogging, I was amused to see that the very guys who went ROFL when I wrote something funny about Kerala at Poomanam changed colors at this blog when I wrote about social issues in Kerala. Most of the things I wrote were first hand experiences of colleagues and relations. And since they were so close to the truth and the truth themselves, there were a number of comments telling me to delete the blog because “it is a lie”. When that failed “the ultimate weapon” came out and that was to call me physically (read “sexually) frustrated and other references that I cannot mention here due to their vulgarity. The reason was obvious. I didn’t shut up and pull down the post when I was told to. And you do not do that unless you want to hear some “nice” words as they term it. Interestingly some of these comments were from guys who had blogs where they wrote about women’s issues and stood up for their rights etc. And more interesting, some of these anon commenters signed in with their blogger ID and left an appreciative comments! Appearances have to be kept up and images secured too, after all :p

Now I notice the same in Twitter too. You will typically see one guy abusing a woman and gleeful and empathic replies of approval and virtual high fives being exchanged by a number of similar people. Some of the words used are disgusting, but the reasons are obvious. Some poor unfortunate girl somewhere stood up for herself and is now being given the “treatment” she deserves.

I tweeted my opinion about one such abusive tweet recently and suddenly my inbox was full of mails from friends in blogosphere and otherwise, pointing me to people calling me “physically frustrated” without using my name. Things haven't changed much I see. Whether it is a blog or Twitter or any other media people do not tolerate what they do not like and get agitated over their lack of control and get abusive to deal with their own impotency. And what is amusing is that these very same people will tweet every story on women or children being abused with sympathetic murmurs or women fighting for their rights with high fives to carefully craft an image and gain more followers. It is really scary when you think about it.

It is a cut and paste world today and creating an image is not very difficult. I know people who lift music links from my blog to appear knowledgeable plus discussions about that particular piece in comment boxes and pass them off as theirs in tweets. Oh yes, all this happens and more here. Sab dhandha hai bhai :))

If online writing has taught me one thing, it is that you cannot carry on a charade or a facade here for too long. And I am heartened to see so many pseudos being kicked out of the closet by the very word they punch on their keyboards.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Love in the times of prejudice

They walked in hand in hand, and looked around in wonderment. The opulence of the mall seemed to overwhelm them. They looked like kids from the lower middle class. Their clothes tailored and out of place. They clung together, a little intimidated by the mall. They were in their teens I could make out. They walked in hand in hand. Their trust and reliance in each other was heartwarming. This was no ordinary romance. They looked so comfortable in the silence that enveloped them as they gazed around.

I fiddled with my coffee. I was waiting for the office gang to land up for a birthday treat. My eyes wandered to the couple. They were going around the mall, looking with awe at the shops, displays, colors and general branding merriment. Their eyes enthralled by the atmosphere, soaking in the sights.

Just as I was taking the last sip of my coffee, I saw them walking out. They had an air of people who had a wonderful day at the circus or zoo. They walked out hand in hand. People looked at them curiously. I was lost in the warmth of the moment to notice... that they were both guys.

Love has no borders or colors. It just takes two people to love. Whatever their gender.

Sunday, August 15, 2010


I watched the Malayalam movie “Ritu” at a friend’s home last week. The movie is ostensibly a new genre of Malayalam movie. What I saw left me disappointed and annoyed. Disappointed, because the story is a contemporary retelling of an old tale i.e. the Malayalee returning to the homeland to start a business venture etc. Annoyed, because the story is written by someone who has no knowledge of the subject in the modern/IT context and panders to the misconceptions that people in Kerala have (specially the older generation) about IT professionals and their lifestyle in Bangalore. The story is written to touch the raw areas and sweet spots of its audience. Nothing sells like misconception that people hold dear because it gives them a sense of security of knowledge.

If this is the new cinema of Kerala then I am deeply disturbed. The movie doesn’t understand its characters or even tries to understand. It is written on wrong surmises and hearsay. The story is so clichéd that one wonders if it is written by a person who has never stepped outside Kerala or ever met an IT professional. Most of the understanding of the young people working in IT companies are derived from reading blogs and the movie has lots of bloopers, like Sunny ( a Kerala Malayalee as opposed to an NRK) who keeps saying “I hate these bloody mallus!” for no apparent reason. It seems to be like a trendy slang the scriptwriter latched onto for the hip effect.

Another blooper is Sharath’s colleague who discovers that Sunny is selling sensitive information by breaking the news to Sharath with this line “That Sunny is gay!!!”

Derogatory usage of the word “mallu’ is restricted to people who have had bad experiences with Kerala Malayalees and to a large extent by NRK's (Malayalee born and brought up outside Kerala to parents who hail from Kerala). The reasons for this will be explained in another blog post. Let me talk about the movie here.

The story is very similar to Varavelpu, where Sharath the protagonist, returns to Kerala after a stint in the US (apparently forced by brother in law) to start a project in Kerala. He is banking on the support of his old friends, Varsha and Sunny. The three were thick friends before Sharath left for the US.

Soon Sharath finds out that his friends have changed. Varsha keeps getting calls from guys in Bangalore and Sunny even hints at a promiscuous life she got into in Bangalore. At times you get the feeling that the movie is slyly trying to portray Bangalore as the Sin City of India. The connection is cleverly pushed, as Bangalore is the IT capital with most IT professionals working here. A naïve viewer would think that all that a girl needs to get laid is go to Bangalore, which is peopled by strapping young male IT professionals who speak only English and party all the time and live a very happening life. And what’s more they keep calling Varsha throughout the day telling her they “miss her”. Err… boys in the fast lanes missing their one night stands? Something doesn’t add up here.

Varsha's dialogues are restricted to "I want to go to Bangalore!" which she says over and over again to convey that she is addicted to Bangalore and its 'charms'. And parties as suggested in the movie happen only on Page Three of Bangalore Times where potbellied Uncles and Aunties and rich kids smile at cameras and pose like they are having a good time.

Guy friends who watched the movie with us were laughing at the portrayal of Bangalore and wondered if the filmmakers knew that the standard Bangalore social life constituted of going to the nearest booze shop every weekend to pick up booze to drink with friends and roomies ( all male) in two bedroom apartment shared by four guys.

The movie progresses with more clichés, like the successful lady entrepreneur who has reached the pinnacle of success not through hard work but by refusing to have kids to concentrate on her career. Or Varsha cleaning up her act by discarding western clothes and wearing salwars and pottu like a "good girl".

I won’t spoil the movie for you, but if it is trying to reiterate misconceptions and preying on people, especially parents fears, then it has done a good job. In the long run, movies like these only makes life difficult for Malayalees working in the IT industry with frantic parents and taunting relations having the justification to diss Bangalore as a trap waiting to swallow their unsuspecting young IT professionals.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Monsoon memories...

My paternal grandparents’ house was made entirely of wood. It still is. Only the four walls of the home are made of brick, unlike the imposing structure I call my maternal grandparents home. The house is very old, built by my great grandfather, who was into the wood business too. He was a pioneer of sorts, who knew that wood would be worth its weight in gold, in a few years to come. People laughed at him when he started a small wood shop as a side business. They laughed louder when he loaded the wood into Lorries and sent them off to far off markets. They stopped laughing when he leased his own fleet of Lorries that took wood from Kerala to Chennai and from there on to, buyers distributed it around the country. Perhaps they went out of the country too. I am not sure.

The results of his travels were the impeccable house he built, from prime wood he kept for himself and a fully wooden cow shed complete with a wooden loft to keep hay! Every stair in the house is made of wood. Stair landings are made of wood and even the floor at most places are made of wood. The wood is old and cured now, cured by time and people. It has mellowed like fine wine and gives out an aroma that I can only describe as “home”. For some strange reason, the humid and wet weather of the place has had no effect on the wood.

The rooms in this house are cavernous and one can hear ones echoes at times. Space, I guess was not a constraint in the old days.

This post is not about wood, but the wood takes on significance in my life as I spent all my holidays in my wooden paternal grandfather’s home.

Every stair landing in this house has a small cupboard and after we were born, coir mats were laid, so that we did not slip on the shiny wood. Every landing has a window, and I spent considerable time in these spaces, reading, sleeping, watching the rain or just staring out. I felt very secure here for some strange reason.

The stair landing gave me hours of contended time just sitting and watching the dense forest, rubber plantations and from some windows glimpses of rice fields nestled in valleys in between imposing mountains. The terrace of the house was useless as nothing could be seen from here. Only canopies of coconut and mountains. The terrace bustles with activity and clinks of glasses in the evening after the rosary and I did not feel afraid to go and look at the pitch darkness around the house. At other times I avoided the place like the plague.

Sitting at the landing looking at the rain, is and will be my most persistent and pleasant childhood memory. The water pours from the awning and the whole landscape took on silvery hues. I watched the sand around the house taking the ritualistic beating during monsoons and felt the tremor of the thunder claps making the house shiver like a scared child. The rain fell in cascades, as in this part of Kerala the rains are not like I have seen anywhere.

The wooden floors were immaculately kept and sitting on the bare floor and reading and falling asleep was routine. For some reason the wood bonded me to the house like brick and cement can never. I still don’t feel the bond with my home in Bangalore, like the bond that I have with that house in Kerala. The house seems to be a living breathing entity. Every nook and cranny is home and unlike tiled floors, you can sit anywhere.

The house has an attic. This is a wonderland that I finished exploring only recently. A section of the attic is above the outer kitchen where wood is still used. I suspect this is to smoke several stuff kept on top over the grill like floor. We never ventured there as we were told that we would fall into the boiling cauldrons below. Besides the floor here was frail with wooden rods laid at a certain distance to from each other to allow the smoke to filter through. Next to this section is the place where bunches of ethaka (banana) hang to ripen. This is the very ethnic Kerala variety and not the type you get in market. Tasteless and bulky. Exhortation to eat the bananas fell on deaf ears and my grandparents’ watched in despair when they were loaded into the jeep to market. There is only one way I eat them till today, and that is steamed.

During the rains the attic was an enchanting place. Many of the tiles of the roof were made of glass to let light through. It felt good to see the rain drops splattering on the tile, leaving me dry. In the mornings, the slanting rays of sunlight fell into the attic amidst swirls of smoke from the wood kitchen. It was a magical sight. One day I plan to take a professional photographer and make him record my living memories.

Sitting in the attic, with the rain hitting the tiles above and reading or just lying on the wooden floor watching the sky through the glass tiles is an experience I cannot describe.

When monsoon begins, the days turn dark and sunlight is a distant memory. But there is nothing gloomy about this darkness. The cozy wood ensconcing the house ensured that my memories of monsoons past were magical in my paternal grandparent’s house.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Educating the educators

Corporal punishment is in the news again. We are a country that needs laws to curb grown up men and women from hitting kids. In fact we need laws to ensure we behave like a civil society. But let us not go there for now. Right now, I want to talk about teachers hitting kids.

I remember as a kid waiting at the Cubbon Park to get on a peculiar type of carousel. There was a family already on the carousel and they ensured that when a child got off they would put another from their family onto the carousel. I waited patiently for the nice Uncle to give me a chance and then from somewhere, my Dad walked up stopped the carousel and told the head of the family manning the carousel to give me a seat. The man realized that he was monopolizing the play equipment and obliged. This more or less sums up us Indians. Here was a 8 year old kid waiting patiently for her turn play on the carousel but this man was not man enough to ensure that the kid also got a chance.

If you remember your childhood, you will remember that the only adults who ever cared for you were your parents, family members and family friends. You could never hope to be treated kindly by even parents of kids who did not know you. We are a selfish society.

And our teachers are not any different. Teaching is a vocation, but in a country like ours it becomes another job, another meal ticket. Therefore expecting our teachers to be nice to kids that are not their own is asking a bit too much.

I studied in a school where teachers were nurtured. Yes, you heard it right. Teachers were nurtured to be teachers. The others were let go. The nuns who run this school, created such an environment, that only genuine aspirant dared apply for a job in the school. The school still continues the tradition. Please don’t misunderstand me here. Teachers are not intimidated here. But guided. And most were willing to change their mindset and become teachers’ a.k.a imparters of education and not mere roll callers and home work and class work checkers.

My niece recently passed out of the same institution. She was doing poorly since 8th std due to tensions in the home between her parents. The teachers zeroed into the root cause of the decline in marks and rectified the same. After failing in 8 subjects from 8th std, she recently passed with a first class in ICSE without repeating a year.

What I am trying to say is that, teachers, like students need to be taught that a B.Ed is not enough qualification enough to be a teacher. A sympathetic attitude towards students and a genuine desire in their welfare and above all a genuine desire to impart learning is paramount. And it starts with the school management.

If a teacher is caught hitting a child, punishing him/her or removing him from the job will in no way deter future kid beaters. What will deter them however is the practice of evaluating teachers not only in teaching, but a whole lot of other parameters that would indicate if a person is suitable to continue in the post.

Thanks to Blogbharati for linking this post.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Stepping down and stepping up!

Shashi Tharoor returned to Trivandrum, last week to a rousing welcome. People cutting across party lines were there to greet him. If he were to resign from the Congress today, and contest as an independent, then the capital city may be lost forever to both the UDF and LDF.

Shashi Tharoor maybe the answer to Kerala’s professional politicians and their tight grip on the state. He has the potential in terms of popularity to lead Kerala out of the peat bog, to unfetter its feet and lead the people from indifference to participation.

He has the potential as he has the people’s backing. The apathy that the people felt at the choices before them seem to vanish when it comes to Tharoor. There is definitely a resurgence of hope in the embittered populace after Tharoor entered politics. Which might explain the bitter attacks on him for anything and everything.

Now if only Tharoor realizes his potential and seizes the moment, he can make history. He is the man who can turn the tide for Keralites.

If however he is risk averse, then he can do a lot as a sitting MP too.

Kerala voters seem to say, “If you have the inclination, you have our vote, all of it.” (Sorry HMT for lifting your tagline).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The invisible gifts in our lives...

The car was traveling fast through the familiar country side. As soon as we left Kottayam, it felt like we had entered the home stretch. Familiar buildings, trees and fields flashed by like wave upon wave of soothing familiar-ness. I knew I was enjoying the scenery due to the air conditioning in the car. It wouldn’t be so comfortable outside.

We took a bypass and were on a narrow road. I used to come this way as a kid very often. My favorite grand aunt lived here. She was called Ellaimma (because she was junior to other aunts), the youngest sister of my grandfather.

I remember walking up the pathway to her house every holidays and watching her standing at the door with a delighted expression as she saw us coming. Her white mundu and chatta would be stained with turmeric and chili powder stains. Then she would bend down and ask.

Idhaara? Enne ariyamo? (Who is this? Do you recognize me?)

And I said the most famous lines ever uttered in my family’s history.

Idhu Kadanad Kochuthressia alle? (Aren’t you Kochuthressia from Kadanad?)

I was six years old and created history with that remark. As a kid who grew up in Bangalore I wasn’t too familiar with our family protocol and unwittingly called my grand aunt by her name. She was called Kadanad Kochuthressia to distinguish her from the other Kochuthressia's in my large extended family. But my bloopers were always received with much laughter. We are family with a good sense of humor.

Then I would wait impatiently for her to change and emerge in spotless white mundu and chatta with the elegant hand embroidered shawl over her shoulders pinned down with an exotic brooch. There is a tradition in my part of Kerala. Relations drop in when there are more hands needed in a house and stay till they are needed.

I asked the driver to stop the car. My mom looked at me and said that there was no one in my grand aunts house now. It would be no use going there. I told her that I would be back quickly and got out of the car. From the main road I took the tiny road dug out from laterite and reached the main gate. The once elegant home was now in ruins. Antique contractors had ripped the hand crafted woodwork, doors and a whole lot of other ornate stuff from this ancient house. Ellaimma's children had sold the house after her death and settled in Bangalore where they worked.

I walked in through the open rusted gates and memories washed over me. Memories of going to the parambu to pick up betel nut that had fallen from the tree and running to Ellaimma, excitement written on my face. Ellaimma loved chewing betel nut. She rewarded me with some black coffee sweetened with jaggery, a favorite of mine. I wasn’t allowed to drink coffee or tea. It was a secret between us.

Every year the cycle repeated itself. Ellaimma our favorite aunt, kept an eye on us as we ran all over the huge parambu and rubber estates and the mountains that flanked the house. Her energy was boundless and she loved trailing behind us outdoors. In the evening, she bathed us and got us ready for rosary. Rosary was said sitting on her lap in the verandah looking at the thousands of fireflies that adorned the pitch black tapestry of night. If it wasn’t for the fireflies, her soothing droning would have put me to sleep.

One day we got the news that Ellaimma was dying. She had mouth cancer. We were in Kerala within hours of receiving the news. When I saw her, she looked anything but the Ellaimma I loved so much. Cancer had eaten half her face away. She had only half a face and pain killers ensured that she never knew that her grandniece had come to visit her. I was devastated.

Years later in a science class I learned with tearing eyes that betel nut chewing causes Mouth Cancer. That day my parents had a hard time convincing me that it was not me who killed Ellaimma.

Today, the cancer eaten face is forgotten. But Ellaimma is etched in my memory forever. Her kind face, twinkling eyes, ready laughter, fantastic sense of humor and an enormous amount of affection for children.

I walked back to the gate and towards the car, after staring at the house for a long time. I hoped the new owners would take good care of the place.

As we drove away, I silently thanked God for the gift of people like Ellaimma in my life.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The vacuum within

The Swami Nithyananda scandal has ripped the society apart. On one side we have people who say that he has every right to sleep with women and on the other side there are people who say that having taken the vow of brahmacharyam or celibacy and exhorting his followers to do the same, he should not have cheated on their faith and belief in him.

I am not here to defend him or run him down. But I feel that religion has become big business now and mega bucks are for the taking if you know a few prayers; posses’ good oratory skills and tones of hypocrisy and know how to harvest people’s insecurities and weaknesses. Reminds me of catechism classes where we were told that God listens to us if we pray to him and if he doesn’t, then He thinks that is best for us. Absolutely no scope for further argument here. :p

Whichever the religion the “holy man” professes , what the people are forgetting is that holy men of yore were people who were acknowledged for their piety and saintliness after a long life led by practicing what they preached. Today those very men have become role models for crooks and con men out to make the mega bucks available for the taking. Whatever the garb, all have their private agendas. Some want to increase followers, some to increase their coffers.

With so many scandals coming to forth involving Swamiji’s and Godmen, one would think that people will think twice before they trust anyone. But the sad truth is, most people would rather listen and be led than think for themselves. This is a weakness that seems to grip our nation. We have this inherent need to pay obeisance to someone and be led like a herd. I do not know why we have this vacuum within us that makes us easy targets for people more than willing to offer us that feeling of being in control of “our” lives.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Making it big while staying small

If there were an award for a city that has remained static, despite the massive changes it has undergone, in terms of demography, industry and social culture, then the award should go to Bangalore. The last two decades has bought sweeping changes to Bangalore. IT has become an important part of the landscape both economic and social. Thousands of people have settled here, displacing the older population by 7 to 1. Yet the city has held firm. Not a single new road has been created. Nor a single gully carved out of its stubborn landscape, all thanks to a recalcitrant administration, that seem to have gone berserk collecting the windfall on the city.

Yesterday I witnessed a funny sight. An Innova carrying lots of expats was waiting by the side on Commercial Street. A traffic inspector came and started shouting abuses, typical Bangalore cop style at the driver. He was loud and rude and unnecessarily harsh. From behind the Innova, out popped a plump lady and pointed to the cop and shouted “Hey! We are waiting for someone. We are not blocking traffic.”
The cop shamelessly shouted back “Shut up you hag. Shut your bloody mouth”. If you think the lady was intimidated, she was not. She stood her ground and suddenly the cop realized that it was he who was losing face. He grumbled and asked the driver not to linger too long. What bought about the change in the cop, was the people staring at him in disgust and disbelief. Two decades ago, he would have got away with it. Bangalore can truly call itself a cosmopolitan city now.

However I noticed that Commercial Street has not grown an inch. It handles the increased number in shoppers by just slowing down. Everything is slow here. I waited for 45 minutes to swipe my card at the Levi’s showroom as the machine was busy due to the peak shopping time. Next time I take cash. Walking about the street, we noticed that all of us were totally exhausted. After three hours of browsing and shopping, we decided to call it a day. There was a time we could hang around this place the whole day. Now it is next to impossible.

As a last port of call, we decided to go to KFC. Wrong choice. The crowd of hungry shoppers was immense and we got to the counter after 30 minutes of leg aching, shin shaking minutes. I was so tired that I don’t even remember eating my Zinger. Got into the car, and thanked my lucky stars that I bought along the driver. Slept all the way home, hauled my carcass out of the car and crashed out to get up only today.

Now I don’t know whether to be happy or sad at the situation. The overcrowding of Bangalore, has strangely bought a semblance of dignity to this city, which was in the grip of parochial maniacs for a long time, who looked at you with contempt and told you at every instance that you were drinking “their” water, living on “their” land and so should shut up and or speak only in the native tongue.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The futileness of hypocrisy

While we condemn the attack on Indians and lately on a Gurudwara in Australia, aren’t we conveniently forgetting that attacks on Churches, Mosques and Temples are routine in our country with hundreds of people dying over these buildings every year?

We protest over Indian students being attacked, while we conveniently forget that Graham Staines and his two sons were burnt alive in our country and thousands of people lose their lives every year in communal and caste clashes.

We condemn racist taunts conveniently forgetting that we attack pubs and beat up women and harass young couples who dare to walk together in broad daylight and impose silly restriction on people due to our inherent intolerant nature!

What a bunch of hypocrites we are!!

We are the most intolerant people in the world, yet we shamelessly raise our voice when an Indian abroad is treated the same way that we treat our fellow countrymen and women everyday!

It is time to introspect and look at ourselves long and hard before we point fingers at others. It is time we set our own house in order before we ask others to clean up their act. Then and only then will we be taken seriously.

We have to remember that we live in an ever shrinking world, where everyone knows what is happening in everyone’s backyard. So let us not call the kettle black and think we can get away with the moral posturing!